The latest news stories from the major news organizations in Cebu and Manila in the Philippines, the US and other countries.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

October 29, 2009 Major News Stories

Palace warns uncooperative oil firms of 'extreme measures'

Don't push it. Malacañang on Wednesday threatened to resort to "extreme measures" if oil companies circumvent Executive Order No. 839 partly by jacking up prices in areas not under a state of calamity.

Petron to incur P1.5 billion in losses from fuel price cap

A government order putting a price cap on fuel will prompt Petron Corp., the Philippines" largest oil company, to incur P1.5 billion losses for the last quarter.

LTFRB regional directors may soon increase/decrease fares moto propio

The three-member board of the Land Transportation Franchising and Regulatory Board is set to issue a "para matrix" in order to give LTFRB regional directors the power to increase or decrease jeepney fares without the need of transport groups to file a petition.

'Non-holiday on Oct 30 is bad for business'

MANILA - Since many employees are expected to go on leave this Friday to visit their departed loved ones in the provinces, local businesses pointed out that the government should have declared October 30 a non-working holiday.

According to the Employers Confereration of the Philippines (ECOP), the non-holiday on Friday does not help them at all since most people will not report for work, reducing productivity.

"Dapat nga yung Friday na lang instead of November 27 and 28 (The holiday should've been on Friday instead of November 27 and 28)," ECOP Chairman Atty. Miguel Varela said.

Malacanang has earlier declared November 27 and 28 as national non-working holidays. November 27 is the day of Arafat while November 28 is Eid'l Adha. These are 2 of the most important dates in the Muslim religious calendar.

ECOP is hoping that the government would make both dates a working holiday at least to avoid higher operational costs, particularly from additional holiday pay to employees.

Despite complaints made by local companies, Presidential spokesman for economic affairs Gary Olivar maintained that all declared holidays have "a higher purpose than just the commercial interests and convenience of commuters."

"(November 27 and 28) are 2 of the most important dates in the Muslim religious calendar, and its lessons are relevant to Christians as well," he said.

No wage hikes for the rest of the year

There will be no salary hikes for minimum wage earners for the rest of the year, a wage official said Wednesday.

Roads near cemeteries closed to traffic on Sunday, Monday

Several roads near cemeteries in Cebu City will be closed to vehicular traffic on Sunday and Monday to give way to the influx of people who are expected to visit the tombs of their dead loved ones for the observance of the All Saints Day and All Souls Day.

Storm warning: Don't visit cemeteries

MANILA, Philippines (AP) — Filipinos should avoid visiting cemeteries during this weekend's All Saints' Day celebrations because a new storm threatening the country could trap them there, making rescue difficult, the country's national disaster administrator said Wednesday.

"Let us avoid visiting our relatives at the cemeteries, and if we really need to make a visit, we can do it earlier — before Saturday," Defense Secretary Gilberto Teodoro said. He said visitors "may be trapped there, or there may be traffic congestion that could delay the response and relief efforts that may have to be done."

About 122,000 people remain in government-run evacuation centers from the back-to-back storms, and many communities in the suburbs of the capital, Manila, remain under water, the disaster agency said.

The Philippine weather bureau said Typhoon Mirinae was about 870 miles (1,390 kilometers) east of Luzon on Wednesday afternoon. It packed sustained winds of 75 miles (120 kilometers) per hour with gusts of up to 94 mph (150 kph) and was moving toward Luzon at 14 mph (22 kph).

Teodoro said the government is planning an early evacuation of areas that may be in the typhoon's path.

"Santi" intensifies into typhoon, to intensify further

A tropical cyclone heading for the Philippines intensified further into a typhoon late Wednesday and remained on course towards northern Luzon, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

Albay province on alert for 'Santi', Mayon

Albay Governor Joey Salceda has placed the entire province under a "state of alert and monitoring" in light of the threats presented by Mayon volcano's restiveness and the approach of Tropical Storm Santi (international codename: Mirinae)

Govt, traders wary about repeat of rice crisis

MACTAN, CEBU - Agriculture officials and traders are wary about a potential repeat of the 2008 rice crisis as consumption continues to rise and production levels off.

The lack of funds for research to come up with adaptive varieties, lack of investments in infrastructure, a weakening US dollar, and the devastating effects of back-to-back typhoons were described as further threatening the rice market and the global economy.

To preserve stability, Agriculture Secretary Arthur C. Yap reiterated the need for a global food reserve that would benefit both producers and consumers. 

When prices of rice soar, producers may deposit their stocks and halt the rise in prices while consumers can turn to the stockpile in times of volatility.

"The potential is there for volatility. We don't know when it's going to happen, but we know it's coming," Mr. Yap said.

Provincial Board may reopen probe into Balili fiasco

The Provincial Board may reopen its investigation into the controversial purchase of the Balili property in Naga City, especially that new issues substantial to the case have surfaced.  PB Member Victor Maambong is willing to sponsor a resolution to reopen the probe, saying the Board needs to know why fellow Board Member Juan Bolo paid Provincial Treasurer Roy Salubre P50,000 intaxes for the lot when the land deal was tax free.

No compromise on taxes from schools, hospitals

No compromise agreement was made during the pre trial conference on the tax dispute between the Cebu City government and the seven universities and hospitals before the sala of Branch 23 Judge Generosa Labra yesterday.

More cash 'coming from SRP'

IF the Cebu City Government closes the three deals for the sale of the South Road Properties (SRP), Mayor Tomas Os-meña assured the City will be financially secure to pay off its loan for the SRP when he steps down next year.

Osmeña said this is the reason he preferred an outright purchase of SRP lots by SM Prime Holdings, Bigfoot Entertainment and a group of Korean investors, instead of a joint venture similar to the Filinvest Land Inc. (FLI) transaction.

In his news conference yesterday, he assured the City will not go bankrupt with the three sales, which will earn for the City at least P3.7 billion, payable in six years.

"I want to be sure that at the end of my term, we have enough cash flow so the financial stability with respect to our debts is fairly secured, that's why all these three are outright sales," he said.

Osmeña will step down from City Hall in July next year, but he is also planning to run for congressman in the south district in the elections this May.

SM Prime has submitted an unsolicited proposal to buy 30 hectares of the SRP for P2.7 billion, payable in six years with an interest of five percent per year on unpaid principal balance.

The City will get P675 million or 25 percent of the total bid price as down payment 15 days after SM Prime receives the Notice of Award.

Aside from a shopping mall with a floor area of 25 hectares, SM Prime will also build a two-hectare convention facility, hotels, school, hospital and high-rise residential condominiums.

Osmeña said the project "will start very quickly." Its proposal is still being evaluated by the City's bids and awards committee before it goes to competitive bidding or Swiss challenge.

Bigfoot Properties Inc. will also buy 4.6 hectares as part of their expansion of their entertainment complex on a leased property at the SRP. The expansion will include low-rise condominium buildings for their foreign staff.

The group of Korean investors will also buy five hectares for a hotel and casino complex.

Osmeña said he can assure the City will not have problems paying the loan when the three deals are closed.

"The three priorities of the SRP, in that order, is one, don't go bankrupt. We have to be sure we can meet our needs. We have to raise cash because the first thing to do, in spite of all your ambitions and visions, is don't go bankrupt, that's the highest priority. So that one is solved," he said.

His second and third priorities are to improve the city's economy and to make profit from the SRP.

The mayor said that bringing in new technology, a new concept of call centers and human resource development ventures in the SRP will do much for the economy of the city.

Before inhibition is final: Ecleo case off the court calendar

Even before his inhibition from the parricide case of Ruben Ecleo Jr. becomes final, Judge Soliver Peras of Regional Trial Court Branch 10 no longer included the case in his list of cases scheduled for hearing yesterday.

Voters without biometrics can still vote - Comelec

Registered voters who have not enrolled their biometrics data can still vote in next year's elections, a Commission on Elections (Comelec) spokesman said on Wednesday.

Police to guard Comelec offices in province

Provincial Police Director Jesus Gaquing yesterday ordered the assignment of police personnel in all offices of the Commission on Elections in the province following the incident in San Francisco, Camotes Island wherein a hot-tempered registrant boxed an election officer.

Fire wrecks P14M in property

FLAMES engulfed the four-story building of LGC Marketing and General Merchandise, destroying an estimated P14 million worth of property just as the store was getting ready for brisk holiday sales.

Winston for mayor?

GOVERNMENT Service Insurance System (GSIS) president Winston Garcia is expected to transfer his voter registration records to the Cebu City poll office for the north district tomorrow, fueling speculations he may run for office in the city.

The administration party Bando Osmeña Pun-dok Kauswagan (BOPK) said Garcia's transfer has long been expected, while the opposition Kugi Uswag Sugbo (Kusug) said it is a welcome development.

Atty. Garcia, 51, is a registered voter of Barangay Cabancalan, Mandaue City and previously served in the Cebu Provincial Board.

The younger brother of Gov. Gwendolyn Garcia is based in Manila but is also a resident of Northtown Homes in Cabancalan.

Lawyer Marchel Sarno, election officer for the north district, said he received a call earlier this week, informing him that Garcia will be transferring his voter registration records tomorrow morning.

He will not be the only high-profile voter to move to Cebu City.

Former senator John Henry "Sonny" Osmeña said he will go to the Commission on Elections (Comelec) on Friday, after a scheduled lunch meeting with leaders of Panaghiusa, the opposition party being revived for next year's elections.

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña, Sonny said, "should talk to (Vice Mayor Michael) Rama to withdraw from the race. I will be a stronger candidate against Winston."

If Garcia transfers to Cebu City, lawyer Raymond Alvin Garcia of Kusug said the opposition party will definitely invite him to join the party and be its standard-bearer.

"When talks that he might run first came out, we already invited him to run for mayor, but he said he's not interested in the post, he's not even interested to run at all. So if he transfers to the city, this is a welcome development for the opposition. We will talk to him again and we will convince him to run," Raymond said.

Opposition congressional aspirant Jonathan Guardo said in a text message: "I heard about it today. I cannot speculate on his (Winston's) plans. It has certainly stirred the hornet's nest."

Mayor Osmeña said he is unfazed by speculations that Garcia may run for city mayor.

"That's fine with me, it's been expected. He's got lots and lots of money. Not since my father Serging fought Marcos may we see wave after wave of money flow into Cebu. Anyway, Cebuanos in the city can't be bought," the mayor said.

Rama, BOPK's mayoral bet in next year's elections, said he will be prepared to face Winston or any other candidate.

He said the appropriate time to comment on the issue will be when the candidates' certificates of candidacy have been filed. "But I have always been consistent that any opponent should not be taken for granted," Rama told reporters.

Tomas says he'll support Gwen for veep

GOV. Gwendolyn Garcia may well be Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña's worst enemy at present, but she can expect to get his support if she decides to run for vice president.

Tomas threatens to remove "illegal" basketball boards

Cebu City Mayor Tomas Osmeña yesterday threatened to remove all basketball boards installed by the opposition on various basketball courts owned by the city government.

NPC remains in 'solid position', says spokesman

The Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) said it remains "in a solid position" to participate in next year's polls despite the decision of its erstwhile presidential bet Senator Francis Escudero to leave the party.

Escudero's dilemma: To run or not to run

While he wants to run for a higher office, Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero is also open to the possibility of not joining the 2010 elections.

Why Escudero quit NPC?

Could the "measly" P200 million contribution to his campaign kitty be the reason for Senator Francis "Chiz" Escudero's departure from the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC)?

NPC wants Chiz to explain his decision to quit party

Senator Francis Escudero needs to explain his abrupt decision to leave the Nationalist People"s Coalition, his former partymates said Wednesday.

Chiz to run for president; network in place

from by by Aries Rufo,
MANILA - Despite his plea for more time to decide, Senator Francis Escudero will seek the presidency, his political adviser Angelito Banayo indicated on Wednesday.

Lakas-Kampi and NPC alliance 'not impossible'—Teodoro

An alliance between the administration Lakas-Kampi CMD party and the Nationalist People's Coalition (NPC) is "not impossible," Presidential aspirant and Defense Chief Gilberto Teodoro said Wednesday.

Comelec affirms Arroyo ruling

THE COMMISSION on Elections (Comelec) yesterday affirmed its resolution allowing President Gloria Macapagal-Arroyo to stay in office even if she has filed her candidacy as congressman.

Irish priest in hands of rogue MILF group—Teodoro

Abducted Irish priest Michael Sinnott is being held captive by "rogue elements" of the Moro Islamic Liberation Front (MILF), Defense Chief Gilberto Teodoro, Jr. said Wednesday.

Businesswoman's nephew reported kidnapped in Zambo City

ZAMBOANGA CITY - A 13-year-old nephew of a businesswoman in Zamboanga City has been reportedly kidnapped by still-unidentified persons from his home in Barangay Santa Maria in Zamboanga City Wednesday morning.

Government, MILF vow to spare civilians

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(UPDATE 2) The Philippine government and the Moro Islamic Liberation Front signed an accord pledging not to target civilians and to protect schools and hospitals, an indication of improving relations after years of conflict, officials said Wednesday.

PRC: 52 new fisheries technologists

from by
MANILA - The Professional Regulation Commission (PRC) announced Tuesday that 52 out of 220 passed the Fisheries Technologist Licensure Examination given by the Board of Fisheries in Manila, Davao,  Iloilo and Legazpi this October 2009. 

Pneumonia no. 1 killer of child deaths in RP

from by
MANILA - Pneumonia has become the "No. 1 killer" for children 5 years old and below, health groups said on Tuesday. 

Sex, alcohol, fat among world's big killers: WHO

from by Reuters
LONDON - Tackling just five health factors could prevent millions of premature deaths and increase global life expectancy by almost 5 years, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) said Tuesday.

120M cigarettes from Philippines seized in Ireland

About 120 million cigarettes onboard a ship which left the Philippines last month were seized in Ireland—believed to be the largest haul of contraband in the history of Europe, the news website said.

Nine men were arrested in the multi-agency operation led by Irish Customs and Revenue officers. Among those arrested were the ship's captain and first mate, a Ukrainian and a Lithuanian. The rest are Irish, aged between 19 and mid-50s.

The MV Anne Scan, which is a German-owned general cargo vessel chartered from the Philippines, was supposed to be carrying animal feed. "About the top quarter of each of the one-ton bags of feed was genuine; the rest contained packets of two brands of cigarettes including Palace, which are normally sold in Britain," the report said.

Drought, typhoons hurt Asia's rice production

A drought in India and typhoons in the Philippines have damaged large tracts of rice paddies, threatening to upset the fragile food market amid fears of shortages and riots, experts said Wednesday.

Envoy: No China-US climate pact from Obama visit

SHANGHAI (AP) – President Barack Obama's visit to China next month is not likely to yield a separate accord on countering global warming, though both countries are pushing for progress for upcoming global talks in Copenhagen, the top U.S. envoy on climate change said Wednesday.

Car bomb kills 100 in Pakistani city of Peshawar

A car bomb struck a busy market in northwestern Pakistan on yesterday, killing 100 people — mostly women and children — as visiting Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton pledged US support for Islamabad's campaign against Islamic militants.

POC chief ready to reconcile for athletes' sake

If only for the welfare of the national athletes, Olympic chief Jose "Peping" Cojuangco Jr. is ready to shake hands with Philippine Sports Commission chair Harry Angping and forget the past.

POC insists on sending 250 athletes to Laos

MANILA -- The POC is insisting on sending 250 athletes to the Laos Southeast Asian Games in December despite the PSC's announcement that it will only fund 153 of them.

PBA: SMB inflicts TNT's first loss

MANILA -- San Miguel Beer weathered a fourth-quarter rally of Talk 'N Text to hang on for 100-90 win in the KFC-Philippine Basketball Association (PBA) Philippine Cup Wednesday night at the Araneta Coliseum.

Agassi admits using crystal meth

LONDON, United Kingdom — Tennis great Andre Agassi has admitted he tested positive for hard drugs during his career and lied to sporting authorities to escape a ban, reports said Wednesday.

Auditions for 'Pilipinas Got Talent' begin next month

from by
MANILA – Actor-host Luis Manzano and international artist Billy Crawford shared their excitement with their first hosting job together. Manzano and Crawford are the hosts of ABS-CBN's newest talent show, "Pilipinas Got Talent."

Rosanna Roces getting married

from by by Reyma Buan-Deveza,
MANILA – Rosanna Roces and her 40-year-old lawyer boyfriend are planning to settle down once the court grants the actress' petition to have her marriage with Lito Molina declared null and void. Roces made this disclosure during a press conference for Cinema One Originals Digital Film Festival where her movie, "Wanted: Border," is one of the finalists.

Study shows more Filipino kids going online

Today's generation of Filipino children are getting hooked on the Web as one-third of households in three major cities - Manila, Cebu and Davao - now have Internet connectivity, according to a recent study.

Mayon spews ash anew

Mayon Volcano spewed ash anew on Wednesday morning, indicating fresh sign of heightened restiveness that could result in a major eruption, a month and 13 days after its first ash explosion episode last September 15.

Scientists say curry compound kills cancer cells

LONDON - A molecule found in a curry ingredient can kill esophageal cancer cells in the laboratory, suggesting it might be developed as an anti-cancer treatment, scientists said on Wednesday.

Stephen Leacock  - "I detest life-insurance agents: they always argue that I shall some day die, which is not so."

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